Michael Harris Receives AIHP Robert P. Fischelis Award

The Institute’s Board of Directors has awarded the 2022 AIHP Robert P. Fischelis Award to longtime AIHP member Michael Harris for his extraordinary contributions to the Institute and the field of pharmacy history.

The AIHP Robert P. Fischelis Award is conferred annually by AIHP’s Board of Directors to a person or organization that has had an important impact on the field of the history of pharmacy and on the well-being of the Institute. The Board’s selection is made from nominations received from Institute members. The award is given in honor of the late Robert P. Fischelis, a gifted leader of the pharmacy profession and a generous benefactor of the Institute.

Mr. Harris was selected this year’s award in recognition of his “lifetime of work to preserve and care for pharmacy’s physical culture,” according to AIHP Executive Director Dennis Birke. For 26 years, Mr. Harris was the Senior Museum Specialist for pharmacy and public health at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. In that role, he was a zealous collector of objects and materials that illustrated pharmacy care in the U.S., including pharmacy’s relationship with public health. Mr. Harris is credited with adding over 15,000 pharmacy artifacts to the museum’s collections.

In a letter informing Mr. Harris that he had been selected to receive the Fischelis Award, Mr. Birke observed that “it is hard to believe that anyone has done more than you to collect and preserve the physical culture of pharmacy in the United States.”

While at the Smithsonian, Mr. Harris also played an integral role in the development of important and high profile exhibits related to pharmacy and medical care. Perhaps most notable is the “Binding the Wounds” exhibit, which told the story of military medicine during the Korean War through a “MASH” unit.

After leaving the Smithsonian, Mr. Harris used his skills and experience as a curator, collector, and storyteller to organize important pharmacy and drug collections at several other museums, including the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum in Alexandria, Virginia, Hook’s Drug Store Museum in Indianapolis, Indiana, the pharmacy museum at Long Island University’s Arnold and Marie Schwartz College of Pharmacy, and the Drug Enforcement Administration Museum in Arlington, Virginia. 

Mr. Harris also conceived, organized, and secured funding for a major traveling exhibit – Medicines: The Inside Story – that toured the country and informed tens of thousands of viewers about the history of medicines and pharmaceutical breakthroughs. As part of this project, he organized a symposium in Atlanta in 1996, which led to a book that AIHP published.

Mr. Harris was also selected to receive the Fischelis Award in recognition of his significant contributions to AIHP. He has donated to AIHP hundreds of pharmacy artifacts from his personal collection. “Michael’s donations have greatly expanded and enriched the Institute’s artifacts collection,” says Greg Higby, PhD, who served as AIHP’s Executive Director for more than 30 years before his retirement in 2018. “I can think of no single individual who has contributed more artifacts to our collection,” Dr. Higby added.

Other important contributions to AIHP including serving a term as the Institute’s President (2001-03) and serving four three-year terms on AIHP’s Council (the predecessor to the current Board of Directors). Mr. Harris has been an AIHP member since 1966, making him one of the Institute’s longest tenured members.

Mr. Harris received a BS in pharmacy from the Brooklyn College of Pharmacy in 1969, and a M.S. in the history of pharmacy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1991.

Posted: June 28, 2022

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